Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Fractured Mind

In case you missed it, you might want to read this first before reading the following.

Life is so... weird, no?  It has the capacity to show and teach you all about love and compassion, about patience.  But just as awesome as it can be, it can be just downright cruel, taking the things that are closest to your heart and just messing with it.  Like you could be looking forward to spending the Christmas vacation with your family and finding out the night of Christmas Eve that your two year old daughter has just been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of leukemia and that this will be the last Christmas you'll ever have with her.  How about wondering why the love of your life since your teen years has that case of bronchitis that never seems to resolve completely and finding out that he's got the most aggressive form of sarcoma and will be lucky to live 3 months?  Or the fact that your mother, who is your best friend, had just retired and you're both closer than ever before and getting the news that she's been diagnosed with brain cancer.  Instead of spending time going on all the little trips and vacations you had both talked so much about going on, you now have to watch her slowly deteriorate, bearing witness to her ever increasing frustration at not being able to communicate even the simplest things and seeing the slow dimming of the brightness that used to light up her eyes.  Or what about going to bed one night expecting to see pictures on Facebook of your cousin cradling her newborn baby in the morning only to get shaken awake late at night to be told that while the baby was born healthy and happy, your cousin has died?

Image courtesy of Puddle City Lifeworks
Thankfully, nothing serious has happened in the last few years.  I'm truly grateful for that.  I really am.  When I look back on my life of the last few years, I'm overjoyed that nothing of that nature came up because I honestly believe that I would have just completely fallen apart.  When so much upheaval is going on in your life, you already feel as if you're marooned on this stupid teeny-tiny island in the middle of a Category 5 hurricane.  You do what you can to batten down the hatches to stay put, trying desperately to hold on to the belief that the storm will pass soon, that it's just a matter of time.  Somewhere in you, in your heart, you just know that the winds will start to die down, the waves will start to calm down, and the sun will start to shine.  And when that happens, the feelings are just overwhelming, isn't it?  You feel hope, joy.  Your body doesn't feel as bruised or battered anymore.  Things are starting to look up.  And then life decides "nope, I've got to kick you in the balls.  Again."


This was how it was in my life up until my post in April.  I was starting to get into a groove, you know?  Meditative yoga in the morning and evening helped me get rid of any supplements (melatonin and Valerian root) for sleeping.  I was starting to pay more attention to what I was eating as opposed to just eating what was "there" and "easy".  Not to say that things were peachy and smooth-sailing, but it was such a huge improvement.  You just know when you're in a better state of mind when your mind isn't racing at the speed of light all the time and you have no problems recognizing that and doing some things to get it to slow down.  Seriously, when you go from this:


To this:


It's pretty awesome-sauce.

So now that you have the backstory (did ya read it yet???), let me fill you in on the characters involved in this story.  Introducing a family I'm very close to, where the husband is a person I consider to be pretty much family (I'll call him "John").  Over the years, I've gotten to know his wife (I'll call her "Jane") and we get along absolutely fabulously.  In fact, I talk to her more than I talk to John!  What can I tell you about her?  She's amazing, thoughtful, sweet, and kind-hearted.  She's also driven, as evidenced by her working AND going to school full-time (and paying her way through school too).  She's also a bit impatient, bad with directions, and not the most organized, nor is she much of a cook.  But really, the best part is being able to feel how much she cares about you and how much she loves you.  Being able to spend time with them as I was going through my low and dark days was like getting some salve on my emotional wounds, knowing that I wouldn't ever be judged for thinking/saying/feeling a certain way.  I needed them in a way I couldn't ever express and they, especially Jane, helped me without anything needing to be said or done.

Image courtesy of Friendship Wallpapers
I remember that Saturday morning like it was just yesterday.  I brought my boys over to their house in the morning for a scheduled playdate and our kids got right to work getting busy and playing.  I asked John where Jane was since she wasn't home.  At that moment, John told me he had something to tell me.  We sat outside in his backyard when he dropped the bombshell: Jane had been having an affair which then ended late last year when she realized that she was starting to develop real feelings for the guy.  Not long after having ended that relationship, she was laid off.  As a way of coping, she began abusing substances.  As it turns out, mental illness has affected some members of her family and it looks like the substance abuse was bringing it out in her.  And it wasn't just schizophrenia, it was the paranoia too.  She'd left the house without giving any notice as to where she was going and had managed to do some really dangerous shit where it was a real fucking miracle she didn't get physically attacked because she was being totally confrontational.  All of this had happened in the span of just a few days of THAT week and it culminated in John and Jane having a crazy fight the night before which resulted in Jane barricading herself and the kids inside the bedroom, threatening divorce and telling the children that their father did not love her or them.  John kept banging on the door and begging for Jane or the kids to open the door, his panic rising and rising as he could hear everything she was yelling and the kids starting to cry, until eventually he had to lower his voice and as calmly as he could muster, beg the kids to open the door.  Finally, one of his kids unlocked and opened the door.

Father reunited with his son rescued from human traffickers.  Not the same situation obviously, but the joy and relief at holding your kids in your arms is still the same (image courtesy of China.org

Let's be real here.  My very first thought was that this just could not be true.  How was this possible in someone who was capable of so much love?  How was this possible in someone who was a hard-working gal who worked her way through college?  How was this possible in someone who absolutely loved and cherished her family??


My next thought was:  I need to grab my boys right this very moment and make a RUN for it!  Fuck YOU, John, for putting my kids in danger by NOT telling me about your crazy ass wife!!!


After what seemed like an eternity of shock and trying to process this information, I was at a loss for what to do, what to say.  There's no guidebook for the regular Joe Schmoe on how to deal with a paranoid schizophrenic and for me, I only knew that I was incredibly angry at Jane for having cheated on John, and I was incredibly angry at John for not having kicked her out of the house immediately as a means of protecting the kids and himself.  But I was extremely sad for Jane for having to go through such a tumultuous time in her life, and even more sad for the fact that she had turned to substances as a coping mechanism.  I was hurt by the fact that Jane didn't feel comfortable enough with me to confide in these things with me but, at the same time, would I have even known what to say, what to do?  To say that I spent the rest of that weekend feeling like I was out of my league would be an understatement.  I felt as if I was in a completely different universe.  By the end of the weekend, though, I was determined that I was going to help in any possible way I could.

I started to help them with household chores.  I'd wash all the dishes piled up high in the sink.  I'd wash the clothes that were spilling over the hamper.  I'd even throw the freshly washed clothes into the dryer and fold them and have their kids help me with putting the clothes away.  I helped them with their gardening, planting some super easy-to-care-for flowers and plants to help provide some fresh greenery and color to help lift their spirits.  I even bought Jane a bike so that we could go biking on some of the trails in the East Bay to get those endorphins going because, as Elle Woods so eloquently put it:


It's funny to look at that and laugh, but I spent every morning for the next month or so sending John a "good morning" text and hoping and praying that I was going to get a response because that meant that he and the kids were alive and well.  I would then spend the time it took to get a response (sometimes it was immediate, others would take a few hours... come on, the guy DOES have a full-time job too!) sitting on the edge of my seat with me wondering if I needed to call the cops to do a welfare check on the occupants of the house.

I'm not going to go into all the nitty-gritty details so here's the result of the months since then:  I realized that I was starting to really drive John up the wall when, after calling me one afternoon to tell me that it was best that our families did not get together that day because Jane had an episode.  After frantically telling him that he needed to have Jane committed in the emergency psychiatric ER or just take the kids and leave the house, he pretty much told me to stop telling him what to do (which, in hindsight, I actually was doing).  I ended up having a rather tough weekend where I had a nice long chat with my friend H.A., who I had turned to for advice from the very beginning upon finding out about Jane.

If you don't have a good friend who's a licensed psychologist, I highly recommend getting one.  I really mean it.  She was the person I turned to for advice on how to interact with Jane, how to be firm without feeding into her paranoia, to make her feel safe.  Through it all, I always got thoughtful texts from her with her number one concern being my well-being.  "My main concern is you.  You've been going through a lot and you have two boys who are totally dependent on you to be there and be present," she'd say.  While I knew that my boys needed me to be healthy and present, it was really hard because of the love that I also have for both John and his wife Jane, and how I ended up being the only person outside of her husband and her mother that Jane could really talk to.  I didn't want to do anything to put that into jeopardy.  My main goal, I told H.A., is to keep Jane talking to me.  If she keeps talking to me, she'll be all right.  And if she's all right then I'll be all right because I'll know that the children and John are safe.

It wasn't until that phone call with John where he told me off that I had to really think hard about what H.A. has been trying to make me do all these months.  The three weeks where I was in between work (my former company got shut-down and I was waiting to start at my new job) spent with Jane in getting her to go outside, breathe some fresh air, and just overall hanging out, was not doing me any good at all.  In fact, even the months prior where I was helping with the housework, none of that was doing me any good.  I realize that that makes me sound like one hell of a selfish person, but I had to realize that John and Jane are their own persons.  Jane realizes what is at stake and is taking steps to improve herself.  She's been seeing a therapist on a regular basis.  She attends AA meetings as often as she possibly can.  She's even found a sponsor who's gone through everything Jane's ever gone through and much worse and is 13 years sober and has absolutely no issues with holding Jane accountable.  John is his own person and an adult.  If he doesn't feel that he or his children are in any danger, who am I to say any differently (unless it was really freaking obvious then all that you-do-and-be-you-thing is out the fucking window and I'm going to call the fucking cops)?  I thought I was helping them with housework?  No.  I'm only enabling them and fostering resentment in the process ("what, she doesn't think I can do the dishes?  Or do the laundry?  Or clean the toilets?").  I learned that I have to let go of A LOT of things.

This doesn't mean that I've cut off contact completely.  We still hang out, but it's not nearly as often as we used to.  It sucks to make up excuses for why we're not coming over but I know that they'll eventually understand.  I still talk with John who, after a little cooling off period, let me know that he was just frustrated and angry and didn't need me to make a bad situation worse but knows that I meant well, that I was trying to help.  Jane asked me to attend an AA meeting with her the other day and I went.  It was an eye-opening experience.  While I was super happy that she asked me (and I was thrilled to support her with my attendance), I couldn't help but feel that I was so not a part of that community.  Mainly because I never had to struggle with addiction (unless you count coffee, then I'm in deep shit), I don't understand what it's like to be stuck in that cycle.  For me, I realize pretty quickly when something is starting to become an issue and then BAM!  Issue resolved.  I recognize the problem and I fix it.  Maybe I need to attend more AA meetings?  Not sure.

What sucks the most about this whole experience with Jane and John is that I had, and still have to, redefine my notion of loyalty.  Having to take a back seat on their issues made me feel like I was being an awful friend.  What true friend leaves their friends in their moment of need?  When they need a true friend the most?  As I struggle to come to terms with that, I realize that someone has to actually WANT your help because they actually recognize that they NEED the help.  If they're not asking for it, don't go butting in and doing everything for them even though you think that you're actually helping.

Life lessons, right?

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Disintegration and Rebirth: An Epilogue

Thanks for all the love and support you've sent my way since my last post, everyone!  It's been really overwhelming and has definitely made me tear up quite a few times.  It wasn't easy writing that post, but it was definitely something that needed to be done.  Half of it was really for me, to get all that shit off of my chest, and the other half is for someone else close to me and everyone else who feels like throwing in the towel because, goddammit, what the fuck?!

It was pretty apparent that I still have some things to clarify about my last post from some of the messages I got so here goes:

No, I no longer have it in me to make any attempts at salvaging my marriage.  I know when my limit was reached the same way I knew trying to salvage the relationships I was supposed to have with those certain people in my life was a textbook case in futility.  When you know, you just know.

Photo courtesy of Martz

No, I'm not putting the demise of my marriage entirely on my own shoulders.  It was as much my husband's fault as it was mine.  So many things were said and done, as well as things that weren't said and weren't done, between us over the years that it's hard to go back to try to reconcile and make amends, especially when the straw that broke the camel's back was so stinging and so hurtful that it just made me unbelievably angry.  To realize that I was really angry and hurt over it took a long time too, because I thought that perhaps I was in the wrong.  In the end, I was pissed because, ultimately, I was accused of doing something I definitely did NOT do and I was deeply hurt.

How do I describe that hurt?  How can I describe that pain?  I imagine it to be like when Julius Caesar, so unwavering in his faith and love of Marcus Brutus, realized that his trusted friend and confidante was a willing participant in his assassination.  Along with wondering why they would do such a deed, you feel sadness because this is what's happened to your relationship.  That sadness feels like your internal organs are getting slowly sucked into one of those tar pits, and you're slowly sinking into it from the inside out.  And then you're angry at the other person, for treating you this way, for getting you in this predicament, and you're pissed off at yourself for not having seen this shit sooner.

Vincenzo Camuccini's depiction of the assassination of Julius Caesar

Recovery has been a long and slow process, and one that I only just started in earnest in late April of this year.  It's definitely going to take a while, especially since things were pretty crappy for a few years.  When you're the one who ends a relationship, you get ALL the feelings, especially guilt.  I remember being asked (before I left) if I shouldn't stay and give my marriage another shot.  It's not a question to be answered so quickly but I'll give you the same answer:

I've been fortunate to have been around couples whose marriages are still super romantic and strong, even after more than three decades.  I've also been around many couples whose marriages are stagnant and they're just as happy letting it be stagnant, with them thinking that they'll get to it later when the kids have grown and flown the coop.  I was in the latter, happy to resolve whatever issues we had when our boys grew up and moved away.  When things happen to make you question whether you want to stay or go, and you see how that has now affected your children, the decision to stay is no longer as concrete as it used to be.  For me, I realized that I did not want my children to grow up thinking that my marriage was normal.  I wanted them to be madly in love with their spouses, to challenge their spouses and to be challenged by them.  I wanted them to know what it was like to truly respect their spouses, and what it takes to earn their respect.  Most of all, I wanted them to know what being a "partner" truly means, that support goes both ways, that they know what needs to be done to foster an openly communicative relationship.  And when they get into an argument with their spouses, they'll know when to apologize when they're in the wrong.  However, it's also just as important that they recognize that they need to apologize even when they're right, because even in argument they've made their partner feel like shit.  That, no matter what, they have each other and each other's backs because they have a strong foundation built on trust and friendship.  Because one's thoughts, beliefs, and ideals on a committed relationship is built upon their parents', there was no way I could let my boys grow up believing that they can let their own relationships get stagnant.  Lead by example, right?

Image courtesy of Pixar Wiki

How can I lead by example?  The first (and very hard) part was done.  The next step is for me to show them what a strong woman is like, and what it's like to love her.  The way I can accomplish that is to first show them that I am absolutely deserving of being loved and respected the way I want to be loved and respected.  For someone who's never been girlie enough (I was a total tomboy as a child),  or pretty enough (nobody likes someone with rashes on their body) or smart enough (it's tough when you're not bringing home straight A's), or even Chinese enough, it's a tall order to get yourself from a place of inadequacy to one of hell-yeah-I-absolutely-deserve-to-be-here-biatches-so-suck-it.  So just like with anything that's well worth the effort, I just have to remember to take it with baby steps.

Stay tuned for my next post, where I'll talk about the great challenge I was brought face-to-face with as I was just starting to get on my feet.  As always, thanks for stopping by.  :)

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Disintegration and Rebirth

My how things can completely change your life in a matter of days...

In the immediate days that followed my last post, I received some pretty devastating news.  The news was just incredibly, unbelievably, and utterly life-changing.  Once again, I felt that I was being completely uprooted by some kind of super hurricane and being tossed somewhere else.  But before I elaborate on that, I realize that I need to put a lot of things into context.  And where else to begin but at the beginning?

The last couple years have been a really tough time for me:  physically, emotionally, and psychologically.  I struggled with the worst case of eczema I'd endured my entire life despite all the healthy eating and working out at home whenever I could using my own body's weight.  I developed the craziest infection in the lymph nodes in my armpit which really scared the hell out of me at first because for about 24 hours, I thought I had lymphoma (no, I wasn't doing WebMD, this was one of the conclusions drawn from my medical doctor).  Months and months and months went by, my eczema was starting to ease up, but man did I lose a lot of weight.  Normally at 135lbs (even after I went Paleo and did P90X and was at my leanest), I found myself to be around 105.  Still, I reasoned, I'm just going through a tough time right now and the weight loss is because I'm just on a super-restricted diet where I was eliminating a LOT of foods to determine which ones I was getting a reaction to.  Then came the ultimate bombshell:  the realization that my marriage had most definitely disintegrated.

The disintegration of something I had placed so much faith and hope in had utterly devastated me, through and through.  It wasn't because of any one thing either of us did, but the hair that broke the camel's back was realizing that trust had been broken, and on something that was completely baseless.  How does one come back from that?  We tried separating and counseling.  We got back together.  We continued counseling with someone else.  In the end, I just knew that I absolutely could not muster up the strength to build that trust again.  And before anyone tries to interject with quips about how relationships just need time and effort, and that broken trust can be repaired, let me tell you that I absolutely believe in all of the above, just not in the case of my marriage.  I have been down that road where people I was absolutely supposed to trust and love with all of my heart did not protect me when I needed it the most, did not love me the way I needed to be, and left me to fend for myself.

Image courtesy of Fayssal Zaoui

I grew up self-reliant but hopeful that I would not turn out to be like those people.  I grew up being determined that I was going to be an awesome person, an awesome mother, an awesome auntie.  There was no way in Hell I was ever going to let any child I knew go through what I went through.  If that meant that I was going to beat the shit out of a family member to protect a child, I would happily do so with every fiber of my being.

"Bitch, what did you just say???" (Image courtesy of PlayBuzz)

On a side note, I guess it makes sense that I'm a Defender/Protector/Nurturer with my ISFJ personality.  But the main thing here was just realizing that everything I had ever worked so hard to make work had died, and it had died miserably.  And it was my fault because I just couldn't bring myself to work on rebuilding that level of trust I once had.  I moved back to my Bay Area hometown to be closer to family as well as being physically closer to where the majority of biotech companies (my line of work) were located.

This past late March/early April, I realized that I had a lot of anger and hate.  It didn't just transpire over the last year but had started to begin even when my husband and I were a newly-engaged couple (probably even before then).  It wasn't that I suffered from low self-esteem when we were dating, or that I lacked self-confidence.  It was more that I took a lot of things he would say or do (or didn't say or didn't do) personally.  Those things, in turn, led to me doubting myself and eventually, hating myself.  But here's the thing:  it's not his fault and he's done nothing wrong.  If I really think about it, it started with the guy I was with before him.  That relationship ended badly on my end because I wasn't "Chinese" enough for his parents.  If you don't know what that means, you need to find an Asian-American whose parents came from the "old" country to explain it to you.  About a month after that long-term relationship ended, I met my husband and we started dating soon after.  I obviously had a lot of unresolved issues but I just shrugged, said "whatever", and was dating my husband anyway.  In fact, I hadn't wanted to be in a relationship at all.  I just wanted things to be fun.  When he wanted to be more serious, I just went with the flow.  But marriage was a big deal to me, and when he proposed, I really did believe that we were both on the same page.  I understood what the challenges were going to be and I was going to stick whatever shit came our way out.  But in the end, I realized that I could not and I would not.  And I was so hurt, and unbelievably angry.

It's all innocent enough in the beginning, isn't it?  The inadequacy I felt at not being Chinese enough bled over into my next relationship.  When my efforts at intimacy failed, I believed that I wasn't wearing the right lingerie.  Then I wasn't in shape enough.  Then I just wasn't pretty enough.  Then it boiled down to just not having the time.  When I went Paleo and started working out, even though I looked and felt the best I ever had, I wasn't intellectually stimulating enough.  I wasn't spending enough time with the family.  I wasn't this.  I wasn't that.  I tried different ways of communicating.  I was too emotional.  I wasn't emotional enough to communicate the urgency of the situation.  The worst part of it all was the fact that I was absolutely internalizing everything and therefore magnifying that internalizing.  I really hated myself.  I hated myself for being so weak.  I hated myself for getting myself in this position I swore up and down since childhood I was never going to get myself in.  I hated myself for ripping up every image and belief of what I was determined my adulthood was going to be.  I hated myself for doing to my sons what I swore I was never going to do.  I hated myself for giving up.  And I had to do all this while plastering a smile to my face and continue on with my life as if everything was okay when it couldn't have been more untrue.


I started drinking at night to help me sleep because I would lay awake at night, ugly-crying like no one's ugly-cried before, with all these thoughts of self-hate and guilt going round and round my brain.  Before the drinking, I would actually go to work on very little sleep (perhaps an hour).  Drinking that Irish whiskey straight on the rocks helped take the edge off and calmed my brain down enough to allow me to get some blissful sleep.  Weekends were spent with my cousin and his family where I ate badly and smoked cigarettes.  Then I started to realize that I would still be a wee bit drunk when I went in to work, my skin just couldn't stop reacting to anything and everything, and I was looking awful.

The start of my enlightenment to my self-loathing and hate came from Big T, who asked me why I was smoking.  In an effort to explain it to him, I realized that there really was no viable explanation.  In fact, this was not where I wanted to be.  This was definitely not where I wanted me to be when I left my marriage.  This was not how I had envisioned my boys seeing me when I left their father.  When I left, I wanted to make sure that my boys understood what it's like to be with a strong woman, and have a crystal clear understanding of what it takes to make a committed relationship work.  I realized, at that very moment, that I was so far from where I was supposed to be I had to tell Big T to go inside the house to play with his cousins so I could have a moment.  Instead, he threw his arms around me and said "I'd rather just hang out with you, Mommy."  I had my most ultimate ugly-cry ever.

"Cheese!!!"

I made an effort to unplug more, which I had already started when I unfriended all non-relatives from my personal Facebook in the beginning of 2016.  I started taking Valerian root as a supplement in the evenings to help me sleep instead of reaching for that bottle of Jamesons.  And as you can remember from my last post, I started doing very basic yoga for the meditative aspect.  I started paying more attention to what I was eating.  Though still not "perfect", I like to think that I'm about 70% there.  I still have a long way to go in healing my spirit and my body, and I just have to remember that it's going to take time.  I was starting to get myself into a rhythm, a good and easy pace that I could do easily on a daily basis.  Things were starting to come together and I really couldn't have been prouder of getting myself to that point.  Then Life stuck out her hand and squashed that rhythm into oblivion.

Stay tuned for my next post (sorry to leave it as a cliffhanger, but this is already a crazy long post and I know you've got other things to do so go do it!).

Thursday, April 28, 2016

My Quest

You know what the worst part of having eczema (or just about any other skin issues) is?  It's that people look at you and there's a reaction to how you look.  As a kid, most other kids used to stay as far away from me as possible because they were afraid of catching whatever it is that I had, no matter how many times I'd explain that a genetically inherited condition wasn't contagious.  Of course, after seeing my nth dermatologist who was able to prescribe me a successful cocktail of topical steroids combined with low-strength sleeping pills (to "calm my nerves", apparently), I was able to finally get my eczema under control in high school and beyond.

Over the years, I became disenfranchised with having to apply my steroidal ointments all the time.  Eventually, I stopped taking the sleeping pills and started to slowly wean myself off the ointments.  When I went Paleo, talk about a game changer!  For once, my rashes were slowly going away for good.  And whenever I did have them, I didn't feel like the layers just underneath the surface of my skin were on fire.  Which, I have to tell you, is the SECOND worst thing about my eczema:  feeling like you are on fire just underneath your skin.  And not just a regular fire, but a fire that's feels like it's being fueled by ALL the combustibles.  A fire so hot that you may as well be the sun, warming all the things around you.  And every scratch you try to not make but make anyway makes it even hotter, if that's even possible.

What with all the changes I've been going through the last couple years, my skin was finally starting to look as healthy and awesome as when I was a Paleo newbie.  Family and friends were telling me how much healthier I looked, how awesome my skin was looking, and how I was just positively radiating all kinds of happiness.  In fact, when I look back, I have to say that I was looking pretty damn good on my birthday last year (celebrated with some really awesome friends at Chris Cosentino's Cockscomb).  Yes, I wore makeup, but I can proudly say that it was just eye makeup (eyeshadow, eyeliner, and mascara).  I feel even almost ashamed to admit that whenever I looked in the mirror, I thought that I was beautiful, like radiantly beautiful.  Finally, here was the person I always felt that I was meant to look like.

Flourless chocolate cake and ice cream for moi!

Not long after, I started to slide.  There's nothing specific that I can actually pinpoint.  Even though I gave up smoking a looooong time ago (yes, I used to be quite the heavy-handed smoker who used to smoke up to two... count 'em, TWO packs a day), I found myself picking it up again.  And only on the weekends.  Weird, right?  I never craved a cigarette during the week but it was so easy for me to light one up whenever my cousin and his wife would light up.

In addition to the weekend smoking, I had a really hard time with both falling asleep and STAYING asleep.  It was always the absolute WORST on Sunday nights when my boys return with their father to begin another week at school and oftentimes, I just didn't end up sleeping at all.  I'd be exhausted when I made it in to work and as soon as I got home, I'd just crash and nap for a few hours.  Which also really sucked, because that meant that I would have a hard time with sleeping that night, and the night after, and the night after that.  Even when my boys were with me, I couldn't sleep because I wanted to enjoy every single moment of being able to snuggle and cuddle with them, knowing that I wouldn't get to do so for another week.  Eventually, I took to drinking a hard alcohol at bedtime to help me get drowsy enough.  And as these things go, I found myself getting to work some mornings and realizing that I was still a tad drunk from the night before.  Since this was obviously becoming an issue, I made the switch to using Valerian root instead.

My diet also started to slowly slide downhill.  I'm with a small company and being that there's only 7 of us, a lot of the times where we'd have company lunches, it would be sandwiches or pizza.  I tried to bring my own lunches and food a few times, and while I wasn't ostracized for not partaking of the food, I wasn't exactly cheered on either.  

Honestly, I wanted to cry.  All the damn time.  I hated missing my children.  I hated the fact that I was sliding downhill.  I hated the fact that I was sliding downhill when I really should be showing them what a strong and independent woman is all about.  Eventually, my rashes spread throughout my body and I was back at the point where I felt like my entire body was on fire.  My face, my scalp, my neck, my ears, my shoulders, my back, my arms, my hands, my fingers, my trunk, my feet.  It even got so bad that both my thighs were so severely bruised from my hard scratching and my bedsheets would have spots of dried blood on it.  The negative feedback loop was really spiraling out of control.

Eventually, I realized that I really needed to make the change.  The very first step was having to admit that I was really depressed.  I wasn't coping well at all.  In the last year, I've moved out on my own back to my hometown and I've changed jobs.  I don't have very many super close friends and those who were were busy planning their weddings, taking care of their families, or just plain lived too far away and had their own lives.  While I know that if I knew I had a really close friend who was in my situation, I'd be MAD AS HELL that my friend didn't reach out to me, no matter how busy I was, my personality is such that I just want to trouble people with my issues as little as possible.  A very I'll-always-be-there-for-you-but-don't-you-worry-about-me mentality.  Not that I needed to be with someone all the time, especially since I'm actually quite an introverted person, but I definitely felt alone without having a solid support structure in place.  Sure, I have my wonderful cousin and his lovely wife, but I also needed someone to really give me a good, hard kick to my ass and scream some sense into me.  Coincidentally enough, it's my cousin's younger brother David (who I've always treated as a younger brother) who, whenever I did see him, would give me that look.  You know which look I'm talking about?  The look that says what-the-fuck-are-you-doing-because-I'm-worried-as-Hell-for-you.  

So with all that, I decided that I really needed to take back control of my life again.  I had to control my rashes and my life with all the means at my disposal.  I realize that this is a little over a month into my quest so it doesn't really count as a set of "Before" pictures but here you go:


You can see the inflamed skin of my eyelids and my cheeks and jawline.  Believe it or not, but this is already 80% better than it was when I resolved to do better.



My cheeks, jawline, and neck.  Just as with my eyelids, this is also now significantly better because the skin is just dark pink/light red and the area has shrunk by a lot.  You can still see vestiges of the rash that was so effing persistent on my clavicle and the upper part of my chest.  The best part of my quest is that right now, I don't feel like the layers under my skin are burning anymore.  If it is, it's hardly noticeable.

Of course, I also had a couple weddings to go to and I was absolutely mortified at the prospect of going looking the way that I did.  Thank God for makeup!  And thank God for Hayley for having told me about Jane Iredale and her fabulous line of war paint!  Instead of looking terrible, I managed to look pretty decent.


But all that lowering inflammation stuff wouldn't be possible if I didn't make small changes in my life.  Starting with how my day begins.  I spend about 15 - 20 minutes in one of the nice conference rooms here in my building meditating and slowing down my thought processes as much as possible.  I usually start with Standing Tree to get my mind to slow down, to focus.

Omm...

Which, I think, is pretty freaking easy to do when this is your view:

A view of the Bay

After Standing Tree, I'll do a couple of super basic yoga moves:  Downward Dog, Upward Dog, Warrior 1, and Warrior 2.  If anything, this has really helped me with my neck and back since I was in a pretty rough car accident back in February.  In general, it's just good that bend that way since I work at a desk and at a biosafety cabinet a lot and I'm usually hunched over.

And of course, now that I have my Magic Bullet, I'm following up with my Super Detox Anti-Inflammation A$$-Kicker (recipe coming soon), filled with all the awesome anti-inflammatory stuff I can possibly fit in.  And, by the way, I also drink this at night right after dinner as my dessert.  All this by 8am too!

Getting my green 'stache on

Last but not least, I've really cut down on my drinking to social occasions (I'm sorry, I won't go dry during Happy Hours with good friends) and I quit smoking (again!).

In the last month since I started this Anti-Depressant and Anti-Inflammation quest, I've been sleeping better.  I fall asleep with way more ease than I have in the last 6 - 7 months, and it's easier to STAY asleep because I'm not waking up drenched in hot sweat and itching like crazy and having to get up and douse myself in baby powder.  I'm learning to cook for 1 - 2 people (2 because I actually need to eat something for lunch the next day) and so far, I have no complaints.  Well, okay... I do have a complaint.  The parking at my Trader Joe's.  That parking lot is just too damn tiny and a trip there feels like a trip to Costco.  It seriously feels like the entire population of my town converges on that tiny place at the same time, which is most hours of the day.  Who do I have to heckle to build a 5-story parking garage???

Back to the inflamed skin and depression business, yes, I'm frustrated that my skin isn't magically bouncing back to what it was on my birthday last year.  I'm still using the topical steroids I was prescribed, but now I'm using the lowest strength ointment about once a week (as opposed to the stronger one every other day, if not every day).  So I'm constantly reminding myself that it took me 7 months to get to my low point, so it's going to take me quite a few months to get myself back to where I need, and should, be.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Herb Roasted Chicken

The funny thing about cooking with fresh herbs is that it's not really an Asian thing.  Scratch that.  There are a lot of herbs that are used but thyme?  Sage?  Rosemary?  The first time I ever tried rosemary was when I was a teenager and my aunt was baking rosemary bread in her fancy schmancy breadmaker.  I remember the smell was so heavenly and I really wanted to sink my teeth into this amazing goodness except that this bread was weird.  It wasn't just plain ol' white and the fact that it wasn't was just weird.  When I finally caved in and ate it, it was all kinds of awesomeness and I ended up constantly bugging my aunt to make it.

Now that I've been more conscious about eating foods that are not only good for decreasing my histamine levels but are really good for decreasing my overall inflammation levels.  Doing so means making an effort to step outside of my comfort levels and learning to cook with fresh herbs (herbs that are totally foreign to the Chinese palate anyway) instead of dried.  Cooking with the freshest ingredients possible is good for decreasing your histamine levels since histamine levels are at their lowest (histamine levels are at their lowest when the plant it is still planted and growing and when the animal is still moving and increase the longer it is dead).

Because of everything I've been going through the past couple years, it's been really difficult finding the inspiration or the time to play with food in the kitchen.  I found myself eating out a lot, or just buying the type of food that heats up easily in one pot or in my little toaster oven (I don't have a microwave) and overall not getting a very good variety in my diet, hence all my skin, digestive, and mental issues.  A good place to start, besides my budding herb garden, is always chicken so why not throw them together and see what comes of it?

Herb Roasted Chicken

-  a few sprigs of rosemary


-  a few stalks of garlic chives


-  a few sprigs of oregano


-  about 10 sage leaves


-  a bunch of lemon thyme


-  2 tbsp of your favorite extra virgin olive oil


-  your favorite salt (to taste)


-  freshly cracked pepper (to taste)


-  2 whole chicken legs




1.  Using kitchen scissors, finely cut up all the washed herbs into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag (definitely take a moment to appreciate the fragrant goodness!)


2.  Toss in the chicken along with salt, pepper, and olive oil


3.  Massage the CRAP out of everything in the Ziploc bag, making sure that the chicken legs are evenly coated with all the ingredients


4.  Let marinate in the fridge overnight

5.  Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Place pan on baking sheet.

6.  Roast chicken for 40min.

7.  Enjoy!


Friday, April 15, 2016

Beef Chow Mein

Let me start this repost with THE BIGGEST, ABSOLUTELY HEART-WRENCHING APOLOGY I can possibly muster from every single atom of my being.

Holy cow, but kelp noodles are really hard to work with!  When I first made this, it was with kelp noodles and for a few months after having posted this, the noodles were absolutely perfect!  Maybe it was just that lot but thereafter, it was incredibly difficult trying to get the noodles to soften up and be noodle-like.  Ugh... so for ALL of you who were using the original recipe, I'm truly TRULY sorry!  Seriously, let me make it up to you with a suitable replacement:  Korean sweet potato noodles!  See?  It's grain-free and totally Paleo!


I found these while browsing through the aisles of my local Asian grocery store a couple years back and it's been a game-changer for the noodle-lover in me (Asians can be grouped into one of two categories:  those who love rice, and those who love noodles).  To me, there's not much of a taste, which makes it perfect (for me, anyway).  Chow mein is seriously one of my absolute go-to's as far as meals go.  It's like fried rice, in that just about anything and everything you have in your fridge/freezer that you need to get rid of can ABSOLUTELY go into it and it'll come out pretty freaking awesome.  In my case, all I had was some beef and a getting-sadder-by-the-day head of Napa cabbage so the following recipe is pretty pared down and very, very simple.  So feel free to add whatever other veggies/proteins that you like and enjoy the results!

Again, I'm really, really, really, REALLY sorry about the old recipe and I truly hope that this simple one totally makes up for it.  I will continue to work on this to snazz it up more so that the end result is totally freaking awesome, so stay tuned!


What you'll need:

-  1lb of beef, sliced into bite-sized slices


-  ~1/2 medium-sized Napa cabbage, chopped

 

-  1/3 bag of Korean sweet potato noodles


-  5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped


-  small thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely julienned


-  1 tbsp finely ground white pepper


-  3 tbsp of coconut aminos


-  3 tbsp of fish sauce


-  1 tbsp of sesame seed oil


-  pink Himalayan salt (for taste)
-  freshly ground black pepper (for taste)
-  cooking fat of choice (coconut oil, lard, olive oil...)



1.  Add coconut aminos, fish sauce, and white pepper to beef


2.  Mix thoroughly and let sit for at least half an hour


3.  While your beef is marinating away, go ahead and boil the noodles as per package's directions


4.  Heat your cooking fat of choice (I use pastured lard) on a pan over high heat


5.  Add the marinated beef and brown.  Then set aside.


6.  In the same pan, add a little bit more (about 1 tbsp) of your favorite cooking fat over medium heat.  When the pan is heated up, add your ginger and sauté until fragrant (about 1 min)


7.  Add garlic and sauté until fragrant (about 1 min)


8.  Add the Napa cabbage


9.  Stir-fry for about 5 min, or until the cabbage is softened enough for your taste (I like mine halfway crunchy)


10.  Add browned beef


11.  Mix everything thoroughly


12.  Drain those fabulous sweet potato noodles


13.  Add the noodles to the beef/cabbage mixture


14.  Mix everything together as best as you can.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste.  Turn off the heat and add sesame seed oil.  Mix thoroughly.


15.  Serve and enjoy!